Take the case of an isolated mountain cabin deep within a forest. The heavy canopy of trees blocks most of the sunlight, and their thick trunks break up the down-slope winds, making investment in a solar or wind-powered energy source impractical. All you’ve got is a winding river in which to catch fish. However, with modest resources and a little ingenuity, this river can become your source of renewable green energy for your house – a miniature hydro-electric power plant.
Hydro-electricity is generally defined as electrical power generated through the use of force from falling water (such as in waterfalls or dams). It is currently the world’s largest producer of sustainable energy, supplying 17% of the world’s total output in 2005. Large hydropower plants around the world generated around 860 GW as of 2008, with small-scale plants generating around 250 GW. Potential is seen for hydropower to be a primary or auxiliary source of green energy around the houses for people living away from main power grids.
Small-scale hydro-electric generators can be built in much the same manner as a home-made wind turbine. The natural flow of the river may be tapped and channeled to a dynamo or generator, which is wired to batteries for storage. A portion of the river may also be dammed to increase the potential energy (and hence the kinetic energy) of the water, thereby making the turbines spin faster, generating more electricity. Such set-ups have been known to give around 1 amp, creating more than enough power for a radio and a couple of light fixtures. What’s more, after the initial investments are made, fuel is unlimited and the device (as long as properly maintained), can run for a few years, making it a reliable source of green energy for your house.
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